Ask a dozen adults what they think of math, and you will find few who have blasé answers. Instead, they probably will express strong emotions of either love or hate, rooted in their grade school experiences with math. As a homeschool parent, you have a precious opportunity to banish both math phobia and math insecurity with a few simple actions.
Point out math in everyday situations
When your child demonstrates ease in working with numbers in daily life, point that out with specific praise, mentioning the math concept in use. For example, your child sees a shirt for sale at 50% off and figures the discounted cost correctly. You can say, “You did well with multiplying that price by half.” Math is used every day while shopping, cooking, estimating, and counting. Look for places to show your child that she is actually good at math and dispel the label of math failure.
Teach with concrete objects
Because of a stigma against using math manipulatives, homeschool parents normally want to make the shift from concrete representations of numbers into abstract ones (numbers on paper) as quickly as possible. The fact is that most children need those hands-on objects much longer than we offer them. Don’t push your child away from what you perceive as a “crutch.” The math reasoning is the same with or without the counting bears or fraction bars. Making the math visual and concrete makes it easier to grasp and boosts confidence.
Practice with fun activities
You can remove a great deal of your child’s distaste for math by making math the most fun subject of the homeschool day. Be creative with simple card, dice, or board games that review the math facts from your lesson. The problems from the workbook suddenly become enjoyable when they are presented in the form of a role play or a competition for small prizes.
Avoid or downplay math testing
If possible, avoid standardized math testing altogether until your child’s skills and confidence are up to par. A math test in the early years that declares a child “below grade level” can be devastating and create a math-phobic and math-hating student.
Forget about grade levels
Grade levels are arbitrary divisions that homeschoolers do not have to adhere to. Start wherever your child is mathematically and work forward, no matter what the grade level is. Focus on growth and continued learning rather than comparison to other students. Most children will catch up in their math reasoning when put in a supportive environment with plenty of concrete math experiences.
Don’t give in to the math phobia and math insecurity in your child. With deliberate effort, you can turn those fears into confidence and that dislike into appreciation.